The interest in alternative forms of organization is helped by a greater understanding of their nature.
In this Hack, I hope to be clear about what management-less organizations are NOT and perhaps contribute a little to what they actually ARE.
Starting with the latter point: management-less organizations are not uniquely self-organizing: ALL organizations are self organizing, hence their name. .....organization.
The difference is not to be found in whether they are self-organizing but rather HOW they self-organize.
Management-less organizations are also not…. well, management-less.
The role of management in any organization is to divide the work and to distribute the rewards for the work. In addition, the management may also be the stewards of the organizations resources as well as carrying out much of the organizations administration.
Every organization has a “system” for carrying out these essential management functions; for many traditionally arranged organizations these functions are delegated to a fixed network of particular individuals (hierarchically arranged) called the Management Team. This team follows a structure and rule-set which has costs associated with them.
In so called management-less organizations an equivalent system is also present, after all, the need for the functions of “management” is still present. Indeed a “management team” of sorts may also exist. However, the important difference is that in the management-less organization this team is not a fixed group of special people but a role that anyone could occupy.
Usually this management role has been, to some degree, delegated to the individuals in the system with just the higher team-level management functions being the responsibility of a particular group- crucially though, this group is not a fixed group but a constantly changing, fluid group of members.
Some management-less systems may delegate every level of the management function, in its entirety, down to every individual in the organization.
It could be said that in such cases everyone has a management role: with everyone being a manager (of themselves), then rather than being management-less, these organizations are better described as “management-full”.
Management-less organizations are not unique in their self-organization, and neither are they management-less.
I’m not sure what to call them, “alternative managementstyle” (like “alternative lifestyle”)?
Why do these organizations arrange themselves in this way?
Its not just an ideological perspective, it is also because these systems can provide adequate “management” with significantly lower costs than the traditional alternative.
Surely they do have some problems?
It’s not that this alternative solution to management has no problems, it’s that on balance, the problems are better problems than those inherent in the traditional approach.
There is an important point to bear in mind that may help to explain why these organizations are appearing today; some of their inherent problems are significantly reduced through the use of IT (such as the provision of real time data from across the organization), something that was not available to the architects of the traditional hierarchical system.
Most actual practitioners will claim their systems not only reduce costs but actually provide superior management, superior engagement of its members as well as greater alignment of the interests of the individual, of the organization as a whole, and of its customers.
Anyone got an idea what we could call them other than management-less and self-organizing?
Cost of management and inherent problems of hierarchy
Flat structure with alternative system for dividing work and rewards
Less cost, more alignment.
What are we going to call it?
Consider the possibility real.
Frederic Laloux's book or video presentation is a good intro.